Confessions of a Struggling Consignment Shop Owner

consignment shop

We all Struggle…

I had just hired a new staff member at my consignment shop and it was within my first 6 months of business. She was a college student inexperienced in dealing with the range of people you get in a retail environment. I had to run a few errands, which would require her to be alone. She had been on the job for just a few weeks and I knew she wasn’t ready to tackle a barrage of intimidating customers.  The good news is that I didn’t have any intimidating customers, actually, I didn’t have any customers. Good news for her… bad news for a young struggling shop owner.

I ran my errands…

Making enough revenue to compensate your staff, pay your bills, and support your family is tough in any small business endeavor. Do not be deceived. It takes determination and tremendous courage! And there will be times when you wonder if you’ll ever do enough business to pay the bills and have a little leftover at the end of the month.

Creativity is Key…

It was in those times of sweat beads popping out of my forehead every time the rent was due that I learned a key lesson in the entrepreneurial endeavor.

When what you are doing isn’t working, get creative.

I wouldn’t tell this to most folks, but, hey, we’re friends right? I will swallow my pride and be honest just this once. In some of the most difficult trials in my first couple years as a consignment shop owner, I was not above dumpster diving. There… I said it… it’s true.

I live in a college town and just before lease transitions there is a whole bunch of used furniture waiting on the side of the road like hitchhikers hoping against hope that some kind soul will come and save them from spending another homeless night alone. Well, I found them a home, right smack dab in the middle of my consignment shop. It may have been humiliating when the police pulled me over for questioning, but it helped me pay the rent! Let’s not call it dumpster diving, let’s call it imaginative inventory procurement. Whew… that’s better!

I’m not saying you need to pick up other people’s discarded household goods, but below are some ideas on how you can get more creative in the lean times.

Three Ideas for Creative Business Growth

Supplement Consignment with Retail

Ok. I know, some of your purists are cringing right now. But, survival sometimes means you do what you’ve got to do. What retail product will make your store a one stop shop for your customers. For us, it is decorative chalk paint® to give new life to those gently used pieces purchased in our store. We also carry a full line of new Serta Mattresses. Here are some other ideas.

  • Jewelry
  • Handbags
  • Furniture Wax or Touch Up Supplies
  • Cabinet Hardware
  • Candles or Scents

You can think of many more. What works for your customers?

Rent Out Your Extra Space

Do you have a small section of your store or outside your shop that can be rented out to others for a regular source of supplemental income?

We have a large outdoor patio and this year we are  having market days one Saturday per month where we rent out booth space to crafters and farmers for the day.

Check your local regulations before attempting this idea.

After Hours Events at Your Consignment Shop

Having a VIP invitation only event or a holiday open house is a great way to get those folks back in who have not perused your shop in a while.  Everyone likes to be invited to a party. Here’s your chance to make them feel special and get a boost in business at the same time.

Here are some of the things we often offer at after hours events:

  • Live Music
  • Refreshments
  • An On Hand Gold Buyers (they like to spend that extra money in your store and sometimes the gold buyer will even give you a commission on his buys)
  • Double Rewards Points (if you are not doing rewards points, seriously consider it)
  • Educational Seminars (painting furniture, basic upholstery, furniture repair, couponing skills,etc…)

These are just a few ideas to get your marbles bouncing.

Conclusion

Entrepreneurialism seems like such a glorious pursuit. The truth is that it is sometimes anything but glorious. Sometimes it is simply a survivalist effort. True entrepreneurs tighten their belt and get creative to find ways to create their next growth opportunity.

If you would like to find creative ways to increase your business, I would suggest you schedule a one day retreat with just you and your whiteboard or notepad and dedicate it to brainstorming creative solutions to your cash flow problem.

Jump in the conversation and share your ideas below…

  • Carol

    Great ideas, Kevin! I will confess, I am not above imaginative inventory procurement myself. (You can find some good stuff that way!) Years ago, when I had my children’s consignment store, I had children’s tattoos printed of my cute little animal store logo framed with the name of my store. (I think I had 1K printed for $99) Armed with the tattos, we hit a huge parade that the city has every year and passed them out to the children & gave a business card to the parents. The kids LOVED it and we gained many new customers from the event! You are right, creativity is key!

    • That’s awesome Carol! Thanks for sharing. Every single creative activity makes a difference.